"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
9/15/2012 – Michigan 63, UMass 13 – 2-1
I don't have anything incisive to say about Saturday's events. Even if I did it would be equivalent to taking a scalpel to a pig you dropped out of a hot air balloon: the scene speaks for itself, and you're not going to come out of it with ham.
I'm with this guy:
I started poking around previous events like this to figure out what you're supposed to say when the predictable thing that doesn't mean anything happens, finding this after the 2010 Bowling Green game:
It's been a long time since this has happened, but in the aftermath of a 721-yard outburst against a I-A opponent there's no grand emotional narrative arc to relate. Last year there was a sense of relief after the Western game; the Eastern game was a reminder that sometimes Michigan plays teams obviously worse than they are and beats the pants off them and isn't that nice but sometimes the quarterback goes down and that's not nice at all. The Bowling Green game was that minus a loss to a 3-9 MAC team the year prior—i.e., a pleasant nothing in which crappy special teams play was just an opportunity to rack up more yards on offense.
A couple years further removed from actual losses to these sorts of teams, or even vaguely competitive games and you can't even offer that paragraph. That game… existed.
Things happened, but the only ones you can derive anything slightly meaningful from are scattered opponent-independent events and those in which the domination was not dominating enough for your sense of optimism. Like the defensive line. You know, the one I tweeted my despondency about in the midst of giving up six points. Denard, who made everyone a little leery when he missed on any pass. Yeah, Michigan won by 50 but the only things that meant anything were a tiny bit bad because they implied you might be unhappy at a future date.
This is what happens when you play a UMass and you're still jumpy from the bad old days. Let's always be bored and have little to say, forever and ever, amen.
The Observer/MGoBlog cooperative had not one but two(!) guys on the sideline on Saturday. Regular man Eric Upchurch:
And new guy Bryan Fuller:
A bonus NOTE for anyone out there blogging: the MGoBlog flickr page now has tags and everything, so if you're looking for a Creative-Commons-licensed photo of player X, that's the place to find it. Just hit us with a link if you use one.
This is all offense:
There's a shorter but more diverse MGoBlue version.
Bullets That Didn't Slip On Quite Enough Gore
Brady Hoke not-that-epic double point of the week. Well… nearly 400 yards of total offense and another dump truck of articles wondering if this is something that will hold up in the big bad(?) Big Ten means it's Denard again, doesn't it?
Honorable mention: Fitzgerald Toussaint, Will Hagerup, Frank Clark, probably some OL.
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS:
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1: Jeremy Gallon (retroactively awarded for Alabama game)
Chasing Jim Mandich. Devin Funchess adds 34 yards and now needs 1355 to pass Jim Mandich. At his current pace he needs 29 games to do so.
The irrational worry that you all have too. Defensive tackles are killing us. Or will be killing us, at least. Possibly. QUALIFIERS. You get the idea.
Roh makes some plays here and there and will fill a hole, force a bounce, etc. Clark is making some plays, yes against not great competition, but that's something to hang a hat on maybe. The DTs? Yeesh.
It didn't help that Michigan ran a pass-defense crew out there with Roh and Black your two DTs with Clark/Ojemudia and SLB du jour at DE. That was their nickel setup and when Michigan ran it on standard downs the line let guys through. Usually for three or four or five yards, but we're talking about a team that has issues gaining one on most downs. Washington and Campbell weren't in much, were never in together, and Pipkins didn't make an appearance until garbage time. Ash was totally absent.
What do you make of that? Just practicing for what seems a very pass-reliant Notre Dame attack? Willfully giving up some rushing yardage just to get the linebackers reacting to QB draws and runs and whatnot? Or doom?
You can make a case for the former. Michigan started screwing around with their kickoffs to see if they could come up with anything better than Wile belting it eight yards into the endzone (verdict: no), and was probably just working on things they wanted to work on once the score got out of hand.
It gives me the willies, though. Especially Pipkins being exiled to the bench for so long. That implies he's further from the field than everyone wants him to be. Or that diabolical Hoke machinations are waiting for the ND game to spring the Great and Powerful Pipkins on unsuspecting Irish. That's the ticket.
Clark, at least. I know we've gotten just one and a half games from both Clark [@ right by Upchurch] and Beyer. Clark has had the full game versus UMass, Beyer the full game versus Alabama. This is not a strong basis for comparison.
Just eyeballing it, though, gives a clear edge to Clark. He is Making Plays™. Beyer didn't seem to be. Clark was by far the superior option against Air Force and was the most active DL on Saturday. He's making spectacular bat-downs of opponent passes something of a trademark. I like trademarks that aren't "I don't do anything much."
He and Ryan will have to get a ton of pass rush to keep heat off Michigan's secondary. Michigan really, really needs him to be a playmaker. He's the only guy who is consistently getting into the backfield even against the UMasses of the world.
FWIW, it looked like Ojemudia was doing a bunch of freshman things when he got in there. He'd overrun a play with a bad angle and let Cox cut back, giving up a big chunk, or he'd miss a tackle, etc. He's Clark last year.
Funchess. The touchdown was just Funchess being wide open and could have been scored by anyone on the roster, including guys out for the year with injuries. That third-down conversion was maybe something to hold on to despite it being Funchess's first catch of under 21 yards. [@ right by Fuller]
On that play Denard moved around a bit and fired a hard, low ball at the sticks. That was either a crappy throw or a great pass to keep it away from defenders; either way it was a tough, tough ball to dig out, especially when you're 6'5". Funchess had no problem. Give him hands to go with that frame and he doesn't have to add much weight—if any—to be a crippling matchup. If you've got a two-TE set out there the defense is either going nickel and giving Funchess someone he won't have much issue blocking or conceding the LB matchup that is never going to go well.
The wide receiver corps in general: hurray? Other than some of the guys being little buggers who are easy to overthrow, I think Denard's targets are way less of a concern than we thought they'd be at the beginning of the season. Funchess is a big part of that. Also coming through: Devin Gardner, who is looking downright comfortable three weeks in, and Drew Dileo, who may not be much to look at—he gets called the "white receiver" by his teammates, except he doesn't—but will snag that bullet you put too far in front of or behind him no problem.
Dileo's big reception was reminiscent of the key late crossing route he snagged against Ohio State, and twice this year he's kept his feet after tough catches for big hunks of YAC. He's a nice option to have.
Strength of competition disclaimers apply, but would you swap Michigan's WR/TEs for Notre Dame's? Maybe, but it's debatable. The Irish are running out versions of Jeremy Jackson (John Goodman) and Drew Dileo (the Toma kid), and Michigan's running out a guy who hopes to be Tyler Eifert (but fast!). How about Michigan State's receivers? No way. Ohio State's? Ask again later. I'll take that for a group that was supposed to be a weak point of the team.
One downer event here was Jerald Robinson not catching a 40-some yard TD pass that was in his hands. Before that he complicated matters by doing a 360 with the ball in the air—never good. If he'd just located the thing properly he could have used his body to separate from the DB and possibly have prevented the rake-out that occurred.
Oh, wait, right, the other thing.
Also a downer. The pick-six. Here's an endzone view:
That's a bad throw to a guy who was kind of open, but Jeremy Jackson being slow contributed a lot, too. He makes that post cut threat. The safety hardly reacts, then he jumps the out when Jackson rounds it off to the outside. That INT reminded me of Countess jumping a Jackson route in the spring game. Without any fear of being beat deep, that was easy pickings. Here you've got a UMass corner in straight man to man against a guy who threatens to go up the middle of the field by himself and still no separation.
I noticed something similar in the Air Force game when a heavily-pressured Denard fired one out to Jackson on third and long. Jackson had a shot to make the catch and could not, but wouldn't have gotten the first down anyway. Dileo was running the same route on the opposite side of the screen and had enough separation for some nice YAC. The smaller guys are harder to hit but they get away from opponents a lot more easily.
(Yeah, Denard has a couple other guys open here. He's also got an unblocked guy in his face and a player in man to man who should be able to get separation. It's not the decision but a combination of the throw and the route that are problems. I'm guessing Denard is repeating what Borges says here:
"It was a good read, just a bad throw," Robinson said.
The bu—LAZER screen. Michigan threw a couple of them. They gained nice yardage, because they always do. Borges has renamed it the LAZER(!) screen—the Z, I feel, is implied—and will hopefully swallow his pride long enough to test it out against Notre Dame. The Irish got smoked on all manner of WR screens against Purdue and it was only Zeke Motta making a great play that held down MSU's attempt.
MSU does not have a Gallon, and with Slaughter out Motta is either going to be in center field or Notre Dame will be rolling with a redshirt freshman who played WR last year as the last line of defense. Here's hoping the new nomenclature allows Borges to go after ND's inexperienced CBs and their tackling early and often.
TURNOVERS! Ain't got none. Problem? Eh. Most of Michigan's first two games were spent defending all of the runs, and the third did not feature many defensive plays at all. Opponents have fumbled seven times, but Michigan's only recovered two. One was Hagerup beaning the returner in the head, the other the meaningless one at the end of the half. Michigan has recovered two of seven fumbles on D and both of their offensive fumbles. So, like … about half.
Oh, that's too small of a sample size, you say? I hate you so much.
The real turnover concern. If Michigan can't get pressure on the QB, they will suffer a decline in fumbles and ill-advised passes generated, and without Mike Martin and RVB that seems a virtual certainty unless Clark busts out enormously. Save us, Mattison zone blitz machine.
Cooper Barton. …probably shouldn't have gotten a bigger cheer than Ron Kramer. Priorities, people. Now we're just waiting for him to release a song on Youtube ("Michigannnn, Michigannnnn, gotta get down on Michigannnnnnnn") they'll play every game.
But he is cute!
Seriously. That is a cute five year old. Someone cast him as a gnome in something. Preferably something in which gnomes make no sense, like the next Fast and the Furious movie.
But at least there's a hole. Second straight week we were mercifully without "In The Big House." I'd crumble to my knees in thankfulness if there wasn't a small child in front of me who would kick me in the face as a result.
Heiko? This is not professional. BUT IT IS AWESOME
(This is not actually Heiko. Obviously.)
Kramer jersey. Giving it to Moore [@ right by Fuller] clears up a lot of things: they're just going to hand them out to people, they're not going to make sure they're stars, and anyone can get them. I'm not even sure they'll make sure they're around every year now, but I'd guess once the jersey is vacated someone will hop on it. I'd bet Butt or Hill is wearing #87 next year.
I do wish those patches were a little less busy. Last name, years present, those things better, no border. /boom runway'd.
There are other players. Michigan's still struggling to make their video boards not useless hunks of metal that annoy you with any advertisements they think they can get away with. To date this has been a struggle, but they took a big step forward last week by telling the goof running the replays to zoom out so you could see more than the texture of the ball. I have no idea when they made this change because I didn't even bother to look at the replay board until the second half, so well have they trained me to believe that there is nothing of use on it.
There is no middle ground between nothing and everything. Spartan Stadium put their meat on the table with scoreboards BIGGER and MORE POWERFUL than Michigan Stadium's. Reviews:
You Know What Would Look Really Sweet On The Scoreboards??
Some f---ing statistics. 5,412 square feet of scoreboard and you can't put any kind of statistics up at any point??? I literally never saw any stats at all the entire night. Hell, with our anemic offense, you only would have needed about 10 square feet for our stats. I'm glad to see that Huntington, Pepsi, GMC, Fly Lansing, and every other f---ing company in this damn state is sponsoring us, but I feel like it wouldn't be too much to ask to set aside some room on the ribbon to put stats up. There were points that the sponsor area on the scoreboard just had the MSU logo or some little design. I don't know why you can't put some stats up at that point. …
That just really annoyed me and I'm just in a bad mood. Might already be a thread on this. Didn't look. Don't care.
The only thing preventing Dave Brandon from doing this is the threat of outright revolt in the fanbase. That's something he's directly stated multiple times in the pass. He's already fitting advertising in anywhere he can. The poles outside the sections went from vaguely-plausible-here-is-our-Stubhub-partnership ads to flat-out Consumer's Power, Whichever Bank is the Sponsor Now things.
It's a slippery slope and any relaxation in the posture will result in the kind of stuff described in the blockquoute above. Remain strong, my people.
Hype videos. They're missing something this year. I really liked the last couple years with the people saying the things; now there are no people saying the things. Probably too late this year, but for 2013 how about something based around the famous Yost quote the HSR deploys on its sidebar?
"But do let me reiterate the spirit of Michigan. It is based upon a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways; an enthusiasm that makes it second nature for Michigan men to spread the gospel of their university to the world's distant outposts; a conviction that nowhere is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours."
--Fielding H. Yost upon his retirement as Michigan's athletic director in 1942.
Maybe you need to tighten it up a little, sure.
Throw that in the mix with last year's "Team, Championships, Heismans" thing and Bo's The Team The Team The Team speech and you've got a nice rotation.
Inside the Boxscore resolves a mystery anyone watching at home experienced:
During one random play in the game, two M defenders ended up hitting the UMass ballcarrier at the same time, from opposite sides. The B1G Network announcer called this a “Malachi Crunch.” There’s nothing like B1G announcers breaking out a 36 year old reference to describe a play. For those still in college reading this diary, the “Malachi Crunch” refers to a demolition derby move employed by the Malachi brothers against Pinky Tuscadero, as shown in a three-part 1976 episode of Happy Days. Fonzi risked his life to rescue Pinky. Then, he baited the Malachi Brothers into trying the move on him. He moved his car at the last moment, causing the Brothers to Crunch themselves. I think providing you with this bit of worthless trivia is entirely consistent with my avatar.
Hawthorne(!) was our leading tackler.
Will Hagerup - This guy is back and better than ever. I must have re-watched the 70-yard-in-the-air blast off the facemask of befuddled UMass return man 7 times minimum. Punts like that could be game-changers going forward.
Robinson threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns Saturday during No. 17 Michigan's 63-10 win over Massachusetts, passing both Brady and Harbaugh on the school's all-time list to move into fifth place overall.
In addition, he's now just 91 total yards shy of passing Henne and becoming Michigan's all-time leader in career total offense.
"To be honest with you," Robinson said after the game. "The only thing I think about is winning, and coming out and being accountable for my team.
Robinson has now thrown for 5,630 yards in his four-year career, and is 208 shy of Todd Collins for fourth all-time. He's also racked up 9,210 total yards with both his feet and his arm, just 91 shy of Henne's all-time mark.
The Daily on Cooper's day out. Vincent Goodwill at the news has a novel take on things: Denard is too important. Meinke is like "how does Michigan use Denard less" and I'm like "isn't it clear that's never happening by now?"
The Daily on the band.
Blog stuff and stuff. Hinton finds an excellent picture of a terrified umpire:
I have no idea where this comes from
Hinton's survey of the CFB landscape is heavy on the Big Ten. We're not good!
Outside of Northwestern's 3-0 run in the Smartypants Series, Big Ten teams are 1-8 against their peer group, before accounting for other marks of shame like Minnesota's overtime escape from UNLV, Wisconsin's ongoing struggles with the likes of Northern Iowa and Utah State (see below) and Penn State's loss to Ohio U. of Ohio. Even the apparent bellwether, Ohio State – setting aside the fact that the apparent bellwether is coming off a 6-7 record in 2011 and is ineligible for the conference championship under a first-year coach –legitimately struggled Saturday to put away Cal at home. That still stands along with Michigan State's win over Boise State as the most valuable non-conference skins on Jim Delany's wall, and unless Michigan delivers another dagger to Notre Dame's fragile psyche next week in South Bend, it will have to hold up until the bowl season. Who's looking forward to that?
The prize for winning the conference now appears to be an execution at the hands of Oregon, USC, or Stanford in Pasadena.
MVictors is calling Brandon "#1000SSS" for some reason:
Old 98?: Speaking of Legends and #1000SSS…while Tom Harmon is listed on the game tickets to be honored October 20th before the Michigan State game there has been no announcement of any formal plan to honor the 1940 Heisman Trophy winner. My understanding is that it’s not dead yet and U-M is still trying to talk to the family. Stay tuned.
My ask: if we don’t honor Harmon, how about honoring Willis Ward on that day, the 78th anniversary of the fateful Georgia Tech game?
Oh by the way, f*** you guys. UMass running back Michael Cox, who played for Michigan from 2008-2011, had a pretty solid game for the Minutemen. He ended with 18 carries for 76 yards (4.2 yards per carry) behind a bad offensive line with not much of an aerial attack. There were a couple plays where he ran east-and-west when there was no hole, losing a chunk of yards. But he had some impressive runs against a Michigan defense that should have been able to clamp down on the running game. I never really thought Cox was a superstar, but I did think that he deserved a shot to play when the aforementioned Smith was being used as a feature back. The knocks on him were always fumbling (he never fumbled at Michigan, though there was a botched exchange in this game), learning the playbook (I didn't see any missed assignments in this game), and running east-west too much (perhaps a fair criticism).
Everyone knew that was coming. I don't necessarily disagree, but the guy just reverses field all the time, and this has to drive coaches nuts.
Photos from Maize and Blue Nation. Here's Cox saying hi postgame:
UMGoBlue also has a gallery.
Ordinary is underrated. Seriously. Christianity calls any of its non holiday seasons "Ordinary Time" after all. But, if we have learned nothing else from our social media revolution, it's that there is a certain beauty and joy in the every day, in the expected, in the run of the mill. That is, as Ann Howard Creel put it, the Magic of Ordinary Days.
|Roy Roundtree||Sr.*||Devin Gardner||So.*||Jeremy Gallon||Jr.*||Brandon Moore||Sr.*|
|Jeremy Jackson||Jr.||Jerald Robinson||So.*||Drew Dileo||Jr.*||AJ Williams||Fr.|
|Amara Darboh||Fr.||Ricardo Miller||So.*||--||--||Devin Funchess||Fr.|
This bit could be better. Roy Roundtree suffered more than anyone in the transition from the spread 'n' shred to the spread 'n' pasted-on-West-Coast-stuff, plummeting from 72 catches to 19. Notre Dame and Sugar Bowl savior Junior Hemingway is off to NFL practice squads as a seventh-round pick; following him out the door are Martavious Odoms (replaceable) and Kevin Koger (uh…).
In their stead Michigan will field a forest of unproven guys with limited upside, freshmen, their backup quarterback, and Jerald Robinson, the one vague hope for a high quality downfield threat who is not the backup quarterback.
It should be noted that Michigan is running the opposite of the Holgorsen style "you came here an X, you learned it in three days, you repeated it 60 times, you are forever an X" specialization offense. Jeff Hecklinski said as much last year…
"The difference in this offense is there aren't really slot receivers as much as outside receivers — they play everywhere on the field and we move them around," Hecklinski said. "The switch is big because of all the little things asked of them - they have to convert routes, pick up checks and route changes and coverages."
…and the frequent deployment of Junior Hemingway in the slot and Jeremy Gallon outside confirmed that over the course of the year. Therefore "slot" is used to denote the player who is going to get all the wide receiver screens, which will never be bubble screens.
Assertion: Junior Hemingway was the most valuable Michigan wide receiver since Braylon Edwards. Hemingway may not have been as good as Mario Manningham or even Adrian Arrington, but imagining last year without his ability to rise from a thicket of hands to snag "no no no no no no YESSSSSSSS" touchdowns is not a pleasant exercise. He is the undisputed king of yards per target since 2005. He was important.
Unfortunately, Hemingway's gone. Left behind is the mismatched collection of runty Rodriguez slot receivers, Rodriguez leapers who run like hobbled ducks, and… maybe Devin Gardner. Definitely Devin Gardner.
Aw, hell, I should probably start off talking about Roundtree and stuff but everyone wants to know about Gardner.
Yeah, man, he's going to play. Unless Jerald Robinson delivers on the perpetual low-level hype, no one else on the roster comes close to Gardner's combination of size, leaping ability, and speed. At the very least he'll frequently attempt the Terrelle Pryor "oops I'm huge" redzone fade…
…and it's hard to see him not being more than that given the alternatives. Gardner played exclusively at wide receiver at the Mott open practice, and with the first team. I've heard from multiple source since: that's no smokescreen.
While no one knows how this will go, the steady drumbeat of hype from players is encouraging. It took about all of a dozen spring practices for reports like this to reach my ears:
Someone who's seen Gardner at all of Michigan's practices so far says he's "instantly Michigan's best receiver and adds a new dimension to the offense." He's "crazy athletic" with "surprisingly great hands."
Similar reports popped up on the premium sites, and when fall camp started and everyone asked anyone in front of the mic about the possibility, his teammates said "dang." Kovacs:
"He's a great athlete, I feel like he could play anywhere and he could probably take my spot if he tried," Michigan senior safety Jordan Kovacs said. "He's a natural athlete, and if they play him at receiver, I'm sure he'll be pretty good.
"Wherever he plays, he's going to make big plays."
"When he gets out to receiver, you think he's a receiver," Robinson said. "He looks like he's been playing there for years."
And then there's this extremely reliable and not all dated video of Gardner screwing around at WR as a high school kid:
That's the ticket, man. They might have to protect him from getting jammed, but that's not too hard: line him up off the LOS, possibly in those stack formations, and there you go. Then it's about running the routes and catching the ball.
The possibility of a "devin gardner dunked on tacopants" tag and a paucity of options to fill the Junior Hemingway role that bailed the offense out time and again last year will see Gardner on the field. It may be sparingly at first, but if it's crunch time against Alabama do you want him on the bench?
Attempting to predict what happens here is very difficult, but I'm betting Gardner is one of four players approximately level on catches and yards at the end of the year, with no true star player. The upside is tantalizing, though, and your best hope for an offense that scorches both ground and sky. Devin Gardner, you've been X-factor'd.
[hit THE JUMP to read up on Roundtree, Gallon, and company.]
Sophomore Thomas Rawls is making a push for more carries this fall.
This Saturday marks the Spring Game, when we all watch a glorified scrimmage and make snap judgments like "Mark Moundros is going to start at middle linebacker," and "Tate Forcier has the Heisman in his future." (Okay, I admit, I said both of those things, but luckily the evidence has been wiped from the internet.) Nevertheless, it's the only semi-competitive football we'll see until the fall, providing us our lone peek into the progress of the team and the various position battles.
Here's what I'll be hoping to see from the offense on Saturday:
Mediocrity. I know, right? This is actually more of a defensive point, but I want to put this here: in the spring, the defense should be ahead of the offense in terms of installing their schemes and playing cohesively. It's no coincidence that we saw the offense absolutely wreck the defense in the 2009 and 2010 games, then look downright ugly at times in last year's edition. I don't need to tell you how those respective seasons turned out. After just two weeks of practice, the offensive line won't have gelled like they will in the fall, the timing between quarterback and receiver is often a little off, and the playbook is still very much in the installation phase. This plea may fall on deaf ears, but don't freak out if the offense isn't marching up and down the field; in fact, feel free to be a bit encouraged.
Gardner Gardner Gardner. All eyes will be on Devin Gardner, though the odds of the coaches trotting him out at receiver for a nationally-televised scrimmage are somewhere between zero and zero. He will be playing quarterback, however, and it's time to see a big step forward from him in the passing game. Practice accounts have been positive in that regard and it sounds like he's the clear-cut #2 QB ahead of Russell Bellomy, though we'll see how big of a gap there is between those two. If Bellomy looks like a passable second-stringer, you can keep hope alive for some Denard-to-Devin connections in the fall. If not, the coaches may find it too risky to split Gardner out wide.
Bowling Ball Rawls. I was pretty high on Thomas Rawls when he came out of high school, and after a freshman year spent mostly on the bench, he's impressed practice observers with his power as a running back and is making a strong push for the backup job. Vincent Smith will inevitably see snaps on third down, but there's still room for a back to spell Fitzgerald Toussaint on occasion and provide a different look in the backfield. Though Rawls won't make many people miss, he can knock them over, and if he shows that against the first team defense we can start thinking of him as a change-of-pace/short-yardage back. Redshirt freshman Justice Hayes has also drawn praise in the spring, though he'll have to prove he's either a more effective runner than Rawls or a more explosive receiving option than Smith to carve out a role; neither is out of the question given his athleticism.
Number One Target? The general assumption is that Roy Roundtree will be the top receiver this year, but I'm not sold on that. His production dropped dramatically last season as he played more on the outside and was no longer the beneficiary of numerous QB OH NOES as a RichRod slot receiver. Jeremy Gallon flashed a lot of talent last season, and I think he'll be a very capable second option, but he's 5'8". Hope may come in the form of redshirt sophomore Jerald Robinson, who's been lauded as a potential go-to guy this spring despite never recording a collegiate catch. This may be your standard Johnny Sears-type spring hype, but let's withhold judgment until we see him on the field. If nobody looks like a solid #1 option, there's going to be a lot of pressure on Amara Darboh come fall.
My Kingdom for a Tight End. This is the scariest position group on the roster, and that's taking into account the fact that the offensive line has almost no depth. Redshirt senior Brandon Moore is the starter by default; he's had issues with drops in the past, so hope he holds onto the ball if it comes his way. Converted wideout Ricardo Miller will get time as an H-back (the "U" tight end in this offense), and he must prove he can hold up as a blocker if he wants to see much time. Behind them are redshirt senior walk-on Mike Kwiatkowski and converted DE Jordan Paskorz. If this unit isn't a total liability, I'll take it, especially with A.J. Williams and Devin Funchess providing reinforcements in the fall. If they are, Al Borges is going to have to get very creative with his schemes.
O-line Depth: Do We Have Any? The first-team offensive line should be just fine, with projected left guard starter Elliott Mealer the only unknown quantity. Mealer is a redshirt senior who's currently beating out a highly-touted (and massive) redshirt freshman in Chris Bryant, so I'm not too concerned about his ability to fit in. Ricky Barnum has reportedly adjusted well to his new role as starting center; again, I'm optimistic about the first team's ability. PANIC! will set in, however, if a starting lineman goes down, especially a tackle. The second-team line this spring features three(!) walk-ons, and while redshirt sophomore guard Joey Burzynski has impressed practice observers, color me skeptical of any 6'1", 284-pound walk-on being anything but a frightening liability in a game situation. The backup tackles are all walk-ons, at least until Kyle Kalis hits campus for the fall, so expect Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield to be encased in bubble wrap until September.
Kickers. Make your field goals, please and thank you. That is all.
|Junior Hemingway||Sr.*||Martavious Odoms||Sr.||Roy Roundtree||Jr.*||Kevin Koger||Sr.|
|Jeremy Jackson||So.||Jeremy Gallon||So.*||Kelvin Grady||Sr.*||Brandon Moore||Jr.*|
|Drew Dileo||So.||Jerald Robinson||Fr.*||Terrance Robinson||Jr.*||Steve Watson||Sr.*|
Yeah, I know the depth chart lists a fullback and crams the wideouts into two spots, but Al Borges keeps saying shotgun and wideouts and even Lloyd Carr rocked three-wide for much of his later period. The slot lives here, for at least another year or two. The slot lives on like whoah, actually: six of the nine guys on that depth chart can't get on the rides at Cedar Point, and one of the exceptions is the returning starter in the… slot.
So they're going to be short. And you should take the above depth chart with as much of a grain of salt as I did the official one and its lack of a slot and placement of Martavious Odoms on the third string. Any of these guys could pop up anywhere save Hemingway, Jackson, and Robinson, who are outside guys exclusively. It sounds like everyone is an outside guy now:
"The difference in this offense is there aren't really slot receivers as much as outside receivers — they play everywhere on the field and we move them around," Hecklinski said. "The switch is big because of all the little things asked of them - they have to convert routes, pick up checks and route changes and coverages."
That is a lot more complicated than what they did last year when the entire passing game was a constraint play. This is necessary to move the offensive forward. I'll discuss it more in the quarterback section, but when Denard's legs were removed from the equation on passing downs YPC dropped to an ugly 5.7—not much better than the 2008 disaster.
There are downsides to this. For example, in the two minute drill stuff after the punting demo Jeremy Gallon twice broke off option routes only to see the quarterbacks chuck it deep. There's going to be an adjustment period here. Roundtree:
“You have to have the timing down in this offense because if the timing is off, then the quarterback is off,” junior receiver Roy Roundtree said. “Our receivers want the ball, so we got to get open and keep the timing good for Denard.
Where is that timing at now?
“We’re getting there,” he said. “We still have two more weeks to get ready.”
Timing's always important and in the long term this passing offense will be more robust. I just hope we get plenty of last year's stuff in appropriate situations.
|like Marquise Walker|
|we totally planned this|
|drags a toe|
|also totally planned this|
|a back-shoulder leap|
|little high, no problem|
|cover zero in the alps|
|inexplicable yac knack|
|Purdue orbit step|
|Illinois Houdini act TD|
|tough to tackle|
|yac knack attack|
|not a replay of YKA|
Over the summer Junior Hemingway ventured into the heart of a South American jungle to perform an arcane rite that would free him of the injury jinx that's plagued him since his arrival Ann Arbor. It worked. It wrought a price on Martavious Odoms, but it worked. Hemingway hasn't been laid up with mono, an ankle sprain, a shoulder problem, or the Black Death in quite a long while.
If he can manage that through the season he's going to end the year with a ton of catches. Even if the Michigan offense doesn't go full MANBALL right away continued development from Denard Robinson will make difficult pro-style throws that frequently target outside wide receivers more feasible; Borges's offense will make them more frequent. Combine that with Hemingway's main skill and there will be jump balls for the taking.
That's convenient. That main skill is being enormous and jumpy. As the table says, he's like Marquise Walker. He's not a guy who's going to blaze past the secondary. There's going to be a corner in the vicinity. If it's going well they're going to watch Hemingway make the catch anyway. What you see at right emphasizes that theme: there's always a guy around, but he's often six inches too short to do anything about it.
A number of the catches are back-shoulder throws that don't necessarily seem intentional. If they aren't they might become so as Borges emphasizes a more sophisticated, they-tried-to-man-up-Crab passing offense.
The canonical example follows.
It might be a mirage conjured by playing next to Darryl Stonum for the last three years, but Hemingway does adjust to the ball in the air pretty well. He doesn't get a ton of separation, but his leaping/box-out ability is top shelf. He does do a good job of finding the ball and bringing it in.
He's also got this strange knack for picking up yards after the catch. He's a 230 pound monster who should get tackled on the catch every time, but this fails to happen with some consistency. There was that ridiculous touchdown against Illinois, for one. The highlights above have a few more examples.
Put the inexplicable YAC knack with his ability to snag downfield jump balls and good enough hands (he had four routine drops on 27 opportunities last year—not good—but snagged 3/5 circus attempts—very good) and you've got a solid Big Ten receiver. He'll see his production increase significantly. If he can maintain his 18.5 YPC he'll challenge Roundtree for the most receiving yards on the team. Expect a bit under 1,000 yards from him.
|quicks way past safety|
|will headbutt you|
|extended screen block|
|opens the corner|
|comes back to ball|
|wide open downfield|
|guy on his back no problem|
Martavious Odoms showed up way down the depth chart a few days ago. I'm not buying that. Hoke wants experience, toughness and blocking, and Odoms provides that. He's going to have to put a third wideout on the field, and Odoms is going to be #3 in snaps after Hemingway and Roundtree. So he's a quasi-starter.
He's probably way down the depth chart because his injury thing is becoming a problem. He missed the second half of last year with a broken foot, spent a big chunk of fall camp sporting a cast, showed up with his shoulder in a sling in a CTK episode, and apparently has another cast on now. In context it seems like his depth chart demotion is a health issue and he'll bubble up (HA!) when and if that gets resolved.
When on the field Odoms has been a reliable, unthrilling option. Odoms is from Pahokee, so he's small and would headbutt a goat if he thought it would get him two yards. His elusiveness is just okay—Roundtree and Hemingway probably have better YAC stats. His hands are good. Over the past two years he's 26/27 on routine catches, 7/10 on somewhat difficult ones, and 2/4 on very difficult ones. On the downside, his lack of height makes him a tougher target. Sometimes balls that Hemingway would grab zing way over his head.
The total package is a useful player but not one that's going to show up in the opposing team's gameplan. If healthy he'll at least double his 16 catches from last year; 45 is the guess here.
Jackson; Robinson (not that Robinson, or that one, or that one)
Since we've shuffled Roundtree off to his old position, there's only two guys bigger than a breadbox left. Jeremy Jackson is the one you've seen. The son of running backs coach and hyperbole enthusiast Fred, Jackson is a lanky, "lumbering" possession receiver who seems like the cream of the four-person WR recruiting class of two years ago. That's not a big hill to climb since DJ Williamson transferred, Ricardo Miller moved to tight end, and Jerald Robinson can't get on the depth chart.
He only managed four catches last year but at least they were all against Wisconsin and Ohio State. He'll see his involvement rise as Michigan spreads Stonum's catches around; 15 catches is as good a guess as any. Hope for reliable hands and an ability to get open thanks to his sizeable frame—a poor man's Avant is the goal.
Jerald Robinson also exists, but not on the depth chart. His recruiting profile makes him out to be a rangy leaper with good hands and some upside on deep balls. His omission from the depth chart was a surprise after the coaches and teammates had spent time talking him up:
“I feel like he’s going to get time,” Roundtree said. “I talked to him the other day, like, ‘Look man, this camp, you got to stay focused, don’t get down because your legs are sore. That’s supposed to happen.’ Jerald’s been having a great camp because he wants to learn and he wants to get better. He can play.” …
“Jerald doesn’t know how good Jerald can be,” wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski said. “There’s a lot of times where he’s really, really come along. It goes back to this is just a process.
“There’s some things he looks really, really good at, and there’s some things that we’re going to continue to work with him on.”
There were reports that Robinson did not Get It and may be in the process of doing so, FWIW. Hecklinski evidently thinks he has not fully acquired It and will wait to put him on the field until he has safely done so. He's a guy to look at for next year. Borges says "he seems like he has a future here," which is not a present here. He's just a redshirt freshman, after all.
Though the short guys are probably going to play outside as much as they do inside I'll cover them in the slot section.
Roy Roundtree is an eventful dude whether he's hand-wavingly wide open for a touchdown or dooming Michigan to turn the ball over by dropping the ball. Thanks to a massive game in the insane triple-OT Illinois thriller he finished as the Big Ten's second-leading receiver.
A large chunk of that is thanks to Denard's legs. There's a certain theme running through many of Roundtree's long receptions: desolation. When Denard catches the safety the resulting throw looks like post-apocalyptic football. Where is everyone? They're dead. Let's run through this tumbleweed-infested secondary.
That did not take a ton of skill on Roundtree's part.
But there is a reason he leapt off the bench during the 2009 Michigan State game and has been the favorite target of whoever's at QB since. For one, he's more slippery than you'd think. Michigan's recruited a horde of 5'9" YAC guys but it's Roundtree who gets targeted on bubbles. It's easy to see why:
|the worst waldo|
|blindingly wide open|
|Indiana oh noes|
|breaks wide open|
|safety just barely gets him|
|fourth down TD|
|gets crushed; hangs on|
|20 against UW|
|guy on his back|
|over the shoulder|
|jukes two different guys|
|smokes him on a juke|
|shakes CB for TD|
Odoms doesn't have much like that on his resume and Gallon is just a rumor. Roundtree's only competition is Hemingway's inexplicable YAC knack.
And his hands are pretty good despite the drops—four in 41 opportunities in the first 11 games last year. He gets targeted a lot. They could be better, sure, but I think everyone remembers them more because instead of converting a first down after Roundtree drops a ball Michigan immediately turned the ball over on three separate occasions. Those tend to burn themselves into your head. Hemingway had the same number of drops in 27 opportunities last year but you only hear about Roundtree's fumblefingers moments. Not that they don't rankle. It's just that I think our subjective memories are not 100% reliable in this matter.
If they move him outside he'll lose his spot as the designated hand-wavingly-open dude jetting past safeties. I think that would be a mistake since he's an easier target to hit than any the other options. When things opened up for the slot last year they often opened so wide that the only things that mattered were 1) how easy is it for Denard to hit him and 2) being faster than a tight end so no one catches him. Roundtree fit on both counts.
Meanwhile, moving outside may make him vulnerable to getting jammed at the line. As a slight guy who hasn't had to deal with that much in his career I can see that going poorly. A corner can get into him—under him—and disrupt his business. He's probably still the second best option out there in those circumstances; he's just not going to be as effective.
Roundtree's production will drop this year as Michigan tries to get Hemingway and Koger more involved. He can't expect set the single-game receiving record every year. He'll still run neck and neck with Hemingway fro the most receiving yards on the team.
If there's one thing that is a must-recycle from last year's preview it's this stunning Kelvin Grady wallpaper:
DOWNLOAD NOW INSTALL NOW KEEP FOREVERRRR
|over the shoulder|
|gets nailed but hangs on|
|a bullet he snags|
|spins to catch it|
|lit up and hangs on|
|designated reverse guy|
|an alley outside|
|just outruns dudes|
I have no memory where that came from, unfortunately. I would like to find this person and see if they have excessively dramatic wallpapers for Nate Brink yet. I bet the text reads "on the BRINK of a REVOLUTION."
Anyway: Grady. He moved over from the basketball team and dropped a lot of balls two years ago, whereupon he was dropped from the lineup when Roy Roundtree burst onto the scene. When Odoms moved outside last year he got another shot and did surprisingly well with it. The hands issues disappeared—while he did have one routine drop on nine attempts he was six of six on more difficult stuff—as he became the designated reverse guy. By the end of the year it was a litte disappointing they hadn't used him more.
Entering his final season Grady's best shot at extensive playing time is based on 1) a lot of three wide and 2) Roundtree playing mostly on the outside. In that situation he's the established veteran. He'd get a crack at screens and seams and whatnot en route to a breakout mini-'Tree year. More likely is a moderately increased role as Roundtree bounces inside and out with around 30 catches.
It could go sour for Grady if Jeremy Gallon translates chatter into playing time. Gallon came to Michigan with a ton of hype and a stunning resemblance to The Wire's Snoop…
Normally this would spell another year on the bench making people wonder what the big deal was all about. Stonum's suspension and the injury curse migrating to Odoms gives him an opening. If you listen to the coaches he seems to be taking advantage of the opportunity.
As a result he passed Odoms on the official depth chart, though this preview assumes that's because of injury. Perhaps more interesting is surging ahead of Jackson and Robinson, who are closer to the strapping downfield leapers the pro-style offense generally prefers. Gallon had seemingly fallen behind Jackson in particular late last year.
(Gallon's special teams contributions are covered in a separate section.)
Sophomore Drew Dileo is basically Wes Welker, of course. He had one catch for three yards a year ago and will probably have to wait another year for some of the small guy logjam to clear before he gets significant time. I can't understand why he's not returning punts since that's supposedly what he was recruited to do and Gallon has been maddening, but there are now two coaching staffs who have come to the same conclusion about the depth chart there.
Finally, Terrance Robinson's still around. He's been conspicuously absent from both press conference chatter and the depth chart. He's been passed by younger guys in Dileo, Gallon, and Jackson. He's probably not going to see time. Here's this catch he had last year, though.
Kevin Koger can't go twenty minutes without someone asking him if he's excited for an increased role in the offense as if he or Martell Webb weren't on the field for 80% of Michigan's snaps last year. The conventional wisdom holds that blocking ain't playin', apparently.
Koger did a lot of that last year and was effective but not stellar. Webb was clearly a superior blocker and was the preferred choice when Michigan got close to the goal line and things got hairy. While Koger was preferred in the passing game, it wasn't by much. His 14 catches were nine more than Webb's five.
Is that going to change this year? If they run the I-form a lot, maybe. That takes the slot off the field and makes the tight end the natural target in the seam areas that are so deliciously open because of Denard's running. I'm not sure how you get opponents to vacate those when you're under center (fake QB draws?), but if anyone can do it it's Denard. When Michigan's in the shotgun he'll have competition from Roundtree, et al., in those zones and it's clear Denard's comfort level is higher with 'Tree.
Koger's lack of participation in the passing game may be his own doing. Two years ago he started the season by making a series of ridiculous catches, then blew all that goodwill and more by catching just 7 of 11 routine opportunities. He was 9/9 last year on those, which helps but still gets him to 16 of 20 all-time— still worse than anyone on the team last year. If he's dropping stuff in practice the lack of attention is not related to the spread. I know there was that one year that Tim Massaqoui broke his hand and Mike DeBord kept throwing to him, but I choose to believe that little wrinkle was unique to The Avalanche.
Koger's role will be up to him. He'll be somewhere between a B- and B+ blocker and will have opportunities to establish himself a major part of the passing game. Our sample size on his hands is still very small and the bad part is now two years removed and he's quite an athlete—his upside is high. I can't help but think he's been held back by things other than Rich Rodriguez's preferences, though. I'm betting on a good but unmemorable senior year.
Moore; weird guy with weird hat and Watson
There are a couple scholarship options behind Koger but they're not particularly encouraging. Despite being a big time recruit, redshirt junior Brandon Moore has hardly been seen on the field outside of baby seal clubbings. Even if he did have a couple of quality options ahead of him on the depth chart, the third tight end should see snaps here and there if he's quality.
More ominous yet has been the total lack of buzz surrounding him in fall. Borges's only mention of the guys behind Koger was when he was directly asked about TEs other than the starter. The result:
I think Brandon Moore has done a nice job. He is still climbing if you know what I mean. He is getting better every single day and Steve Watson is a solid player. I think we’re pretty deep there. I think we’re pretty deep. Because Kog got hurt in the spring, those other guys got a lot of reps.
That seems to be something to file under coachspeak. We'll see; given Moore's physical talents he could surprise.
And then there's Steve Watson, who came in as a tight end, got moved to DE, linebacker, TE again, and then started playing FB—he appears on both depth charts. I imagine he'll get some time near the goal line as a threat out of the backfield and out of necessity when Borges feels the need for a big set. At this point it's hard to think he'll do much with it.
Ricardo Miller's the lone other TE on the roster. After moving from WR he's up to 234 pounds, which is far too little to see the field unless the roof caves in.
|Darryl Stonum||Jr.||Martavious Odoms||Jr.||Roy Roundtree||So.*||Kevin Koger||Jr.|
|Junior Hemingway||Jr.*||Je'Ron Stokes||So.||Kelvin Grady||Jr.*||Martell Webb||Sr.|
|Jeremy Jackson||Fr.||Jerald Robinson||Fr.||Terrance Robinson||So.*||Brandon Moore||So.*|
The situation here is similar to tailback, where Michigan doesn't exactly have a proven star but they do have a ton of options. Outside, Darryl Stonum could blow up, Junior Hemingway could stay healthy, and Martavious Odoms could be a quick blockin' bugger that springs other guys to big gains. In the slot, Roy Roundtree will act as team safety blanket and any of the three guys behind him could provide the woop-gone YAC Darius Reynaud gave West Virginia. At tight end, if Kevin Koger can catch the easy ones he'll be a lethal complement to the zone read.
The bottom here isn't bad, as it consists of a ton of throws to Roundtree and decent contributions all around. The top is enticing, with silly yards per catch possible on the outside and chain-moving consistency on the inside.
Greg Mathews has graduated, a couple kids left the program over the past couple years, and Junior Hemingway is destined to be hit by a meteor in week three, so Michigan's getting creative at outside receiver by moving slot-sized slot Martavious Odoms outside. Despite Odoms' diminutive stature, this makes sense given the situation. Below you can see Odoms doing some catching and all that, but you can also see him chop much bigger guys to the ground time and again. When my Florida recruiting source said Odoms was a "tough SOB" he was not kidding:
|WILL HEADBUTT YOU|
|a precious thing forever|
|fantastic block on the nickelback|
|NOT BREASTON BUT WHO IS|
|squeezes up the sideline|
|avoids the tackle|
|digs this out w/ guy on his back|
|lays it in there|
|lays it in beautifully|
|Odoms reels it in|
Last year everyone was down on Odoms despite his productive freshman year (he was Michigan's leading receiver) because of a series of fumbles late, when it was cold and he was wondering how many limbs he had because he certainly couldn't feel more than two. There was a pretty terrible diary around these parts that met with a strong response. People got strained. Futures were question. It was tense.
For my part, I was "skeptical any slot would beat him out" and "bet on a lot of hurried backtracking" after the year; one half out of two ain't bad. Odoms didn't exactly get beat out but no one's wresting Roy Roundtree's job from him after he blew up in the last third of the year, and while people claiming Odoms sucks are thin on the ground these days any backtracking was steady, possibly even languorous. Fumbles were reduced but not erased as Odoms lost his punt return job to Junior Hemingway. He faded into Bolivian at the end of the year.
So he's at a crossroads. The question is how effective will Odoms be on the outside. No one really knows since all we have to go on are some vanilla scrimmages from spring and fall during which deep passes were anomalies. Things we do know:
- Odoms was 16/17 on easy catches last year (presumably these were a lot of bubble screens), 4/6 on moderately tough ones, and 1/3 on very tough ones.
- He was a receiver for five(!) years at Pahokee after signing up in eighth grade and has played inside and out since.
- He is really short.
We don't have a lot of information about his routes, but he did smoke Indiana safety Nick Polk on that game-winning touchdown. Limited touches after were probably not his fault. He certainly had decent enough hands, though a double-clutch here and there led to frustrating incompletions on the wheel routes he ran frequently.
By moving outside, Odoms has ceded most of the screens to Kelvin Grady and Roy Roundtree and will see his per-game production drop. He'll still be involved, though how much depends more on Roundtree, Stonum, the tight ends, and the tailbacks, all of whom seem to offer either more big-play ability or reliability than a 5'8" outside receiver. Odoms is likely to finish in the middle of the Michigan receiver pack with between 20 and 30 catches.
|in between levels in the zone|
|bursts open 20 yards downfield|
|Mike Floyd catches this, right?|
Darryl Stonum has been something of a disappointment his first couple years. Last year the conversation in re: Stonum was largely about pages and the benefits of getting on the same one with the coaches. When it wasn't, it was about dropped balls. When the season rolled around Stonum started every game but came up with such a paucity of highlights that I've got more on Patrick Omameh, an offensive lineman who played in three games, than him. HIs stats boggle the mind: 13 catches for 199 yards, one fewer catch than he managed as a freshman. End of stats.
As a result, Stonum came up for repeated psychoanalysis in UFR, most of it focusing on his inability to adjust to balls thrown downfield. Against Eastern this happened:
This occasioned a long section about how Forcier left this short but this was the week after ND, when 1) Stonum turned a very makeable deep catch into something almost impossible by turning inside when he had five yards of room to the sideline and 2) Mike Floyd turned Michigan cornerbacks into roadkill. The resulting consternation:
I'm grabbing this just so people can maybe talk about Stonum's adjustment to this. I think it's poor. He misjudges the ball and doesn't slow up enough and turn, which would probably have led to the DB running him over and a PI call. Mike Floyd [or Braylon Edwards] catches this, right?
This persisted; after the Wisconsin game I launched the "same old complaint" when Stonum failed to adjust to a poorly-thrown deep ball and allowed it to get intercepted when he really should have been able to at least bat it down.
Receivers often take time to break out, but the really amazing ones often get there their sophomore years (Braylon, Manningham, and Howard all blew up in year two), so expectations were busily being scaled back when… my gawd, that's Rick Vaughn's music!
Yes, for the second consecutive year Michigan has discovered one of their wideout needs glasses. You'd think that after the coaches discovered one of their wideouts was secretly blind as a bat they would have declared mandatory eye exams for all, but they didn't, so the above clips happened and everyone was very sad. Now? Well, Stonum's reportedly had an outstanding fall camp:
"This is the most consistent we've had Darryl on a day-to-day basis. He's going to be a big factor for us. He's a very talented guy that has a renewed sense of hunger."
As his recruiting profile suggested and kick returns showed, he has electric speed. The coaches seem to be on the same page with him. The quarterbacks are not going to be freshmen. He can now see the damn ball. He could totally blow up, or he could rack up 20 catches and have a version of that year Steve Breaston had after Edwards graduated where it became clear to all that he just didn't have it downfield. I have no idea what it will be, which makes Stonum the offense's #1 X factor going into the season. He can swing games by himself if he lives up to the chatter. A real live deep threat in an offense helmed by Denard Robinson can be preposterous: Chris Henry averaged 25 yards a catch(!!!) his freshman year at West Virginia.
That's Stonum's best case: not that many catches, but a lot of long ones and some game-swinging touchdowns. The worst case is more of the same.
|other end of Forcier improv|
|one little shimmy and is then by|
|caught from behind on bomb|
|big punt return.|
|leaping catch in traffic|
Odoms's move outside pushes Angry Michigan BLANK Hating God's favorite target to the bench, at least nominally. After Junior Hemingway missed spring ball to go along with missing most of 2008 and spending 2009 at half-speed with an array of Minor-like injuries that were just tolerable enough for him to play, it seems like the Michigan coaches finally decided they couldn't rely on him to be around long term and placed him on the bench. Since receiver's a spot at which rotation is incessant he'll get his share of time, leaving the move mostly symbolic, but it is a symbol.
Surprisingly for a guy who barely outpaced Stonum last year with 16 catches, he's got a substantial highlight reel you can see at right. He was also named "first among equals" after the Western game. It's mostly deep stuff: burning Western Michigan, exploiting Illinois over-reacting to a play, burning Illinois and then getting caught from behind, etc. As recruit his rep was an explosive leaper who lacked top-end speed—I compared him to Marquise Walker—and that has been borne out. It's tough to tell if his meh career to date is underperformance or just three years of terrible luck. If he can stay on the field he should be a solid, useful addition to the receiving corps. He's 225 pounds, which makes him a slant threat not duplicated elsewhere on the roster, and last year he was 10/10 on easy catches and 2/3 on moderate ones. His hands are good.
He should have a role and improve on his 16 catches of a year ago, although possibly not by much.
The single other outside wide receiver with any experience is sophomore Je'Ron Stokes, a six-foot guy with excellent athleticism who could have played in the slot if that wasn't already being fought over by four or five guys. Stokes was just outside of top 100 lists as a recruit. Michigan snatched him away from Tennessee after their coach implosion. The takeaway from the recruiting profile:
An electrifying game breaker with excellent speed, Stokes could use more size on his current 6’1” and 180 pound frame. He has great hands, knows how to get open, makes a lot of acrobatic catches and is terrific after the catch.
He's got a bit more size now, checking in at 193 at last report. He was another guy who blew his redshirt last year; his single highlight last year was digging out a low ball dubbed CONESTRAVAGANZA I in the late stages of the Baby Seal U game. He was injured in the spring and only came on late, but he was also pretty much absent from the fall scrimmage; another year mostly on the bench seems likely.
The third string is all freshmen. The only one to appear on the official fall depth chart was Jeremy Jackson (profile), the "lumbering" son of running backs coach Fred Jackson. Lumbering he may be but he's also the son of a coach and has the route running skills and hands you'd expect from such a gritty gritterson of a player. He'll play, likely sparingly. That should mean that classmates Ricardo Miller (profile) and Jerald Robinson (profile) are headed for redshirts.
Roy Roundtree's second catch as a Michigan Wolverine was a game-tying touchdown in the pouring rain against Michigan State. This was a good omen. Over the next few games his playing time increased, though his catches remained infrequent because he was seemingly targeted only when it was a terrible idea to do so. Then Odoms got injured. Roundtree announced his presence with that 77-yard catch-and-run against Illinois about which we will speak no more, then showed Purdue the true power of snake oil:
A good day from the receivers, and by "receivers" we mean "Roy Roundtree." The one drop didn't hurt much since it was on a screen that was going to get blown up anyway. Minor could have helped out by pulling in a low throw by Forcier, too. Other than that: Roundtree, Roundtree, Roundtree. The 1 he pulled in prevented an interception on Michigan's first drive of the day, converted a first down, and lead to a touchdown.
Plus he did this:
Martavious Odoms just saw his job come under howitzer fire. Odoms has been valuable, too, so he won't just go away, but Kelvin Grady's time just got eaten up and I think Roundtree is the starter even when Odoms is healthy. This might also presage some dual-slot formations that have been absent so far in Rodriguez's tenure at Michigan. Kid's pretty good, and quicker than you'd think given the Hawthorne incident last week.
|catching in the rain|
|trucks a safety|
|great, great block|
|inverting an interception|
|20-yard dart downfield|
|pitch and catch|
|dig it out, dig it out|
Did I mention that Roundtree was last year's Rick Vaughn? All hail occasionally checking your receivers' vision. Someone check Denard Robinson right freakin' now.
Roundtree continued his rampage over the last two weeks of the season against Wisconsin and Ohio State, yielding this season breakdown:
- First eight games: two catches, 44 yards.
- Last four games: 30 catches, 390 yards.
Project the last four games over the course of a season and you get 90 catches, 1200 yards, and a season second only to Braylon Edwards's 2004 campaign in the annals of Michigan lore. So… yeah. That's probably not going to happen. But it would be pretty cool i it did, huh? More realistically, Roundtree should double his output from last year, ending up Michigan's leading receiver with 700-800 yards.
For the record, last year Roundtree was 16/16 on easy catches, 4/8 on moderately difficult ones, and brought in his only super-tough attempt of the year by wresting away a sure interception from a Purdue linebacker. He's not that big. He's pretty fast but not that fast. He's not that shifty after the catch. But he's open and he's where he's supposed to be, which is right in front of the quarterback, and he'll catch the ball. So they throw it, and he catches it, and yeah he's basically the apotheosis of the Purdue receiver.
EXCESSIVELY DRAMATIC KELVIN GRADY WALLPAPER FTW
Basketball refugee Kelvin Grady's found himself in an impressive position on the depth chart by warranting an OR with Roundtree. This represents progress; Grady's 2009 was cut short by frequent dropped balls. By Iowa one was enough to yank him or the game. Late in the year UFR noted that nine of the twelve flat drops on the year had been turned in by the tight ends and Grady. After the Illinois game, Roundtree was contrasted with Grady because when Roundtree "is thrown a ball that hits him in the hands it does not fall to the ground." You get the idea: hands not so good.
That's perhaps understandable after Grady thought he'd left football behind for good when he signed up to play point guard for Tommy Amaker. After two years on the basketball team he found himself behind walk-on, read the writing on the wall, and picked up the cleats again. The rust was evident.
But Grady just keeps making plays in practice. That was the reason he was given the opportunity to drop those balls early in the year even with Odoms in front of him and Roundtree nipping at his heels, and the reason he's listed as a co-starter on the depth chart despite Roundtree's stunning end of year breakout. He featured in more "Countdown to Kickoff" highlights than any other non-quarterback; in the fall scrimmage he certainly looked like a top-level option, once taking a reverse from Robinson to score on a one-play, 30-yard drive. A review of his high school highlights reveals the sort of explosive agility that Michigan's other slots seem to lack:
As a bonus, since he was a high school running back he'll be better suited to those spread 'n' shred plays where a slot receiver motions into the backfield to become a second running back. It's hard to imagine Roy Roundtree doing that, so adding Grady to the rotation adds pages to the playbook. He'll see time, and could even supplant Roundtree as the preferred destination for quick screens… if the hands come around.
The backup story remains the same, except older. Terrence Robinson's first two seasons at Michigan have resulted in an injury redshirt and one catch for 13 yards against Baby Seal U. He was fairly prominent in spring and fall, though not nearly as much as Grady was, and is in competition for the punt return job. His problem has always been hands—he was mostly a QB/RB in high school—and that's prevented him from seeing the field. With two guys in front of him it seems like it will be another season spent watching. He'll probably get some real playing time when Grady is tired and Michigan is looking for their slot to be one of those RB/WR flex guys in the mold of Dorrell Jalloh.
Freshman Jeremy Gallon (profile) took a redshirt last year after arriving late because of some academic issues. He should find the field some this year but reports from practice suggest that Gallon did not put in the same sort work some of the other wideouts did and that this will hamper his playing time. Also an issue is a foot issue that isn't severe enough to keep him out of practice but does warrant walking around campus in a boot.
Gallon was a (figuratively) big recruit from a couple years ago, a one-time member of the Rivals 100 and solid performer at the Army Bowl who is by far the most guru-approved of any Michigan slot receiver. With two older and more established options in front of him, his best chance for playing time will be taking return duties away from Odoms.
Also, here is your annual reminder that he is a dead ringer for Snoop from The Wire:
Finally, freshman Drew Dileo (profile) looked pretty smooth this fall but is a very tiny true freshman. If he finds a role this fall it will be on punt returns.
Kevin Koger started the year off in Braylon Edwards fashion by reeling in 3/4 passes rated 2 (difficult but makeable) and 3/4 rated 1 (great googly moogly). He then finished the year off in Braylon Edwards fashion by dropping every routine ball that came his way. The result was schizophrenic: by the end of the year Koger was 7/10 on tough catches… and 7/11 on easy ones. Matters came to a head against Penn State:
Koger's great start came to a clunky halt with an 0/3 day, and no one really helped out except for the running backs. Forcier's day wasn't good, but it wasn't as bad as the numbers suggest.
He added another "bad drop" against Illinois. That and backup Martell Webb's similarly frustrating hands is part of the reason Roy Roundtree blew up in the last three games.
Koger did not exactly bounce back from this over the offseason, dropping a couple passes in the fall scrimmage and being conspicuously absent from offseason chatter both above- and underground. With depth at slot looking healthy, the entire tight end position could see itself minimized if they don't perform.
There's a good chance they will, though, with all three players returning. Koger himself is entering his true junior season; as a highly sought recruit with a year and a half of starting experience under his belt he should improve considerably. The downers from last season do consist of four dropped passes, after all. Two fewer and everyone's talking about how it will be pick your poison underneath. Small sample size disclaimers apply. When you look at the stuff at right it's hard to envision a guy with that much talent finding himself minimized, especially when Denard-related freakouts see him hand-wavingly wide open frequently.
|Webb's great block|
|picks the playside DT up|
|crushing downfield block|
|Kicks out LB|
|in a sea of green wondering where everyone else is.|
Senior Martell Webb has seen the most playing time to date. He was an infrequent target a year ago. The quarterbacks threw him six passes, one of which was uncatchable and the rest routine. He was only 3/5 on those routine balls, possibly explaining why he wasn't targeted on them more often. He put on 12 pounds from last fall to spring, then took a couple off during the summer and is now a solid 255.
Koger's blocking has been iffy, and while Webb didn't stick out in my memory as a crusher all but one of the clips at left are positive run blocks: he's likely to be the choice when Michigan goes to its I package. Unless he has an epiphany about having the ball in his hands (and Koger doesn't) his receiving stats are going to look a lot like they did last year. Throwing it to him is plan G when you've got three receivers, guys like Vincent Smith coming out of the backfield, and a considerably more dynamic starter at tight end. Webb's a fullback, basically.
The third and final scholarship tight end on the roster is redshirt sophomore Brandon Moore. He was a highly touted recruit with loads of offers when he committed to Michigan early in the hybrid Carr/Rodriguez class, but then dropped off with an indifferent senior year. Since his arrival he's been locked behind Koger and Webb—the only clip I have of him is a catch against Baby Seal U. Without any buzz otherwise, that will likely continue this year.
Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, DE Kenny Wilkins, DT Terry Talbott, DT Richard Ash, C Christian Pace, WR Drew Dileo, and WR Jerald Robinson, and WR DJ Williamson.
|Ann Arbor, MI - 6'4" 195|
|Scout||3*, #79 WR|
|Rivals||3*, #22 MI|
|ESPN||4*, 79, #39 WR|
|Other Suitors||Florida? Texas? LSU? Tennessee?|
|YMRMFSPA||Greg Mathews or Tyrece Butler|
|Previously On MGoBlog||TomVH interviews Jackson. Friday Night Lights took in one of his games.|
|Notes||Son of RB coach Fred Jackson. Early enrollee.|
Of all the fine players Fred Jackson has coached in his tenure, he's the most excited about his son, Jeremy, who shoots lasers out of his eyes and reminds him of a Braylon Edwards, except fast and with giant hands made of glue. And when Jackson committed to Michigan months before the previous class even signed it seemed like this was a widely-held opinion. Every article about it mentioned hot-damn offers:
When high school senior Jeremy Jackson looks through the family mail, he commonly sees what every high school student athlete dreams of — full ride scholarships to the colleges of his choice.
Jackson cites offers from four of the top 10 football college in the land, including Florida, Louisiana State and Texas.
Michigan wasn't the only major program to offer Jackson a scholarship. Florida, Texas, Nebraska, Iowa and North Carolina all came calling, too, and Jeremy seriously considered signing with LSU.
In addition to Michigan, Jackson had scholarship offers from Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and North Carolina.
ESPN confirms as well. There are a bunch of Scout articles with those claims that also add Louisville and Stanford to the docket. Tennessee even came in months after his commitment with an offer. Texas was on him "hardest." As Christopher Walken might say about hot dogs: wow.
HOWEVA: not to suggest that a member of the Jackson family might be given to exaggeration, but given the way the Jeremy Jackson story played out it's more likely that the offer-type substances listed above were "verbal" offers that, like a Les Miles letter of intent, evaporate when someone attempts to use them. When it came time to rank the kids, Jackson's offers from the best schools in the country amounted to a generic three star rating from the drop. Even Ricardo Miller, about whom more in the near future, started off with a ranking slightly proportional to the hype. Jackson checked in at Anonymous Three Star and stayed there for the duration. Rankings systems aren't infallible but when a player actually has the offers Jackson claims he did six months before the previous class signs he at least starts off a four-star.
Jackson didn't, and even ESPN—by far the most enthusiastic service in re: his talents—put out an evaluation that uses the word "lumbering" in the first sentence($):
Jackson is a big, lumbering wide receiver prospect with great size and a thick build. He is strong and knows how to use his size. He has a nice combination of size and athleticism. Possesses long arms and a wide catching radius. Comes off the ball hard and will push defensive backs off him. Looks a bit like an H-back type. He is versatile and can be effective both inside and outside. He has good hands, plucks on the run and uses his body very well to shield defenders from the ball. If it's reachable, he will make the effort and display excellent focus.
The rest of it is more of the same: "lacks great burst," "may struggle to create separation," "mismatch in the red zone," "reliable," "excels in a crowd," etc. He gets a lot of Eckstein adjectives; the evaluation screams "son of coach"; in no way does it make it seem likely that Florida and Texas offered a kid in Michigan before his junior year is over.
That book on Jackson is consistent. The Rivals evaluation:
STRENGTHS: Jackson is a big target. He may actually be taller than his 6-3 listing in his profile. He has really soft hands. He catches the ball away from his body well, and makes it look easy. He is a better-than-average route runner as well. He will be a very reliable receiver at Michigan, and overall, was impressive on Friday.
WEAKNESSES: Jackson lacks top-end speed. It shows most in his inability to separate himself from defenders on deep routes. However, he does have pretty good body control and good hands. With some added strength, he will be able to make catches with defenders on his hip. - G.L.
Is a big bodied kid who uses his body well to out-position defenders. Has good ball skills and timing and is able to go up over the top of defensive backs to make tough catches. Has fantastic hands and makes grabs in traffic. Lacks top end speed and ability to stretch the field but should be a reliable possession receiver and red zone target.
"Hands," "size," and "red zone weapon" are his assets; "speed" and "downfield threat" the negatives. Everybody hold hands and sing in harmony: the scouting report on Jeremy Jackson is unanimous. Even Jeremy Jackson agrees when talking about things to improve on:
They haven’t talked about speed, but my Dad just told me to keep working hard every day. I ran a 4.58 at camp, and I’d like to get that down to a 4.4 or 4.5. I want to improve my weight, and I can’t really improve my height at all, so I’ll focus on those. I’m assuming they want me to gain weight, they haven’t mentioned it. Rich Rodriguez isn’t influencing me on my speed either; it’s just a goal of mine. My route running and catching ability are my strengths right now, which helps.
His coach is also on board:
“He is big and strong. He uses his body very well when playing against a (defensive back). He cuts very quickly and has great feet and hands,” Gildersleeve said.
“He is a good teammate. He does his job and works very hard,” Gildersleeve said. “The players on the team look for him to make big plays for us.”
Gildersleeve liked the "big and strong" part so well that he moved Jackson to tight end as he installed a veer offense; despite this he managed to call the kid's number enough for him to lead the county with 47 receptions (and 691 yards), an increase on his 42 catches (and 620 yards) as a junior. This came despite games in which he was targeted five times and had an opportunity to make a catch once.
Because his dad coached at Michigan his recruitment was extraordinarily brief and obvious save for the offers listed above, which we just covered. At Michigan he'll be a wide receiver unless he packs on a ton of weight and becomes a slight, but potentially dangerous, tight end. A side note on his potential usefulness: as a former high school TE and a gritty Gritstein of a player with excellent size and long arms, his ability to block on the edge could be a major asset in the ground/screen game.
"He brings a lot to a team," Huron coach Joel Przygodski said. "The most tangible aspect of his game can't be seen on film - he is so smart on the field. He's a very, very difficult player to game plan for. We just shake our heads at some of the things that young man has done."
Father son stuff gets weird:
When Jeremy emerged as one of Michigan’s top recruiting targets for 2010, Fred drew the role of lead recruiter. He wrote Jeremy a letter or two each week, as he did all of his prospects, explaining how much he wanted him and what Michigan had to offer. And he made regular trips to see Jeremy at Huron High School.
Other guy named Jeremy Jackson: David Hasselhoff's son on Baywatch, who put out a sex tape in 2008 and is now endorsing a product that prevents premature ejaculation, but only in Australia. AMBIGUOUS CLAUSE WOOT.
Why Greg Mathews or Tyrece Butler? Butler is probably the closer comparison since he was also around 6'4" and sticks in my memory as the Michigan WR most likely to get tagged with "lumbering," Listed at 6'3", 211, he was not a hyped recruit and ended up a bit player until his senior year, when he caught 21 passes as the #3 receiver. (Did he get injured or something? All of his passes were made in the first eight games; he registered nothing in the last five.)
Mathews, meanwhile, was considerably more hyped as a recruit—he squeaked into the tail end of the Rivals 100 on their last revamp his recruiting year—but turned out to be overrated because he couldn't really get separation from defensive backs. He did have some spectacular hands, though, and would have been a reliable underneath target if he'd had a non-freshman quarterback either of his upperclass years.
Guru Reliability: High. Yes, despite the spread between some on the rankings, when they all say the exact same things about a player there's no reason to expect anything different than the scouting reports.
General Excitement Level: The opposite kind of moderate that dropped on DJ Williamson. Williamson could be anything from Braylon/Mario III to Doug Dutch II; it seems obvious that Jackson will be a solid, unspectacular contributor who would ideally be the #2/#3 receiver on the team when he is an upperclassman.
Projection: Enrolled early and has a shot at playing time outside with the scant experience past the starters, but still likely to redshirt since it seems like Miller and Robinson are getting more early buzz. Probably won't see the field much until Stonum and Hemingway go; redshirt sophomore year is his first shot at playing time.